Digital High Street 2020 says index would be a resource for national and local government
A new interactive index on the digital health of high streets is needed to help ensure they have the right infrastructure and skills in place to compete, according to a report from a body formed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The Digital High Street 2020 report, compiled by the Digital High Street Advisory Board, says the High Street Digital Health Index would help local and central government in efforts to support high street shopping centres. It would take into account: access and infrastructure for broadband and mobile data; digital skills among local consumers, SMEs and charities; evidence on the attractiveness of high streets to consumers; and digital engagement in local communities.
Data would be aggregated from across the UK and organised into geographic areas reflecting the boundaries of local government and high street communities. The index could compare each community and provide a modelling and planning tool for local government.
The proposal is one of four in the report aimed at revitalising high streets. The others include raising basic digital skills among consumers, SMEs and charities, and creating a High Street Digital Lab in which digital consumer services could be tested.
It also says that infrastructure should be upgraded to provide universal fixed connectivity of not less than 24Mbps, and up to 100Mbps for 75% of homes and businesses. There should also be 4G access to 98% of the population and clear standards for public access wi-fi.
The DCLG said that independent experts will now be appointed to look at how the index and the laboratory could give small traders training and skills and provide advice on the infrastructure they need.
Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey said: "There is no doubting the importance of thriving high streets to the economic health of towns and villages throughout the UK. I am convinced technology can play a part in helping make high streets more relevant and accessible in today's and future modern high streets."
Pictured: Tring High Street, by Ian Pettigrew, through Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic